How does a cleft lip affect your kid’s oral health? What can you do to take care of their beautiful smile? This common birth defect could be a cause of concern for parents. But today, with the help of a team of specialists and advanced techniques – your child can have a healthy, beautiful smile.

Do you know that orofacial clefts are one of the most prevalent congenital disabilities seen all across the globe? They can manifest in multiple ways. This is called a cleft lip when your child’s lip does not develop properly. Some kids can have both a cleft lip and a cleft palate. In contrast, others may have only one or the other. If your baby has a cleft palate or a cleft lip, one question that you may have is how this will affect their dental health.

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A cleft palate is also quite similar. It occurs when a portion of your kid’s mouth does not correctly join together in-utero, thus resulting in an opening in the mouth. This opening in the mouth is usually near the roof of the mouth on the palate. At times it may also occur at the back of the mouth.

Keep reading to learn valuable info regarding dental care for children.

Cleft Lip – Overview

You need to know that cleft lips and palates are congenital disabilities of the mouth that affect the lips and the palate. In the United States, about 6,800 children a year are born with cleft lips, cleft palates, or even both.

Both these birth defects occur early in pregnancy. It happens when the lips’ sides and the mouth’s roof do not fuse properly. A child can have both a cleft lip and a cleft palate together. However, the most common problem associated with cleft lips or palate – is while attempting to feed your child.

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Cleft Lip – These may occur when the child’s lips are not properly formed. The degree of the cleft varies from a mild notch in the lip to even a large opening. At times the opening may extend up through the nose.

Cleft Palate – Cleft palate may occur in a child when the roof of the mouth has not closed all the way. It creates an opening that may extend into the nasal cavity. Cleft palates might also develop from the front of the mouth all the way to till the throat.

What Is a Cleft?

Clefts are common birth defects observed in infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC – more than 2,600 babies are born each year in the US with a cleft in the roof of the mouth. The roof of the mouth is also known as the palate. Some kids are born with an opening in the lip. The condition may not be as severe as a cleft palate. In contrast, others may have an opening in the lip and palate.

It is likely that this defect can develop during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Especially if tissues that form the roof of the mouth or the lip – do not join correctly while the fetus is growing. In such a scenario, the baby is born with an opening between the mouth roof and nose floor. Some may even have a slit in the lip.

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While the actual medical cause is still unclear. The CDC has reported that there could be several factors that can increase the risk factor. Women who smoke during pregnancy and those diagnosed with diabetes before becoming pregnant are seen to have a higher risk of giving birth to such a child with a cleft.

Maternal diet and medication may have a significant effect. As well as environmental exposure might play a role. It is important to note that these defects tend to run in families.

How Are Teeth Affected?

According to the Cleft Palate Foundation – such a defect may lead to a defect that can lead to dental issues. It can affect both the baby’s and adult’s teeth. The size, positioning, shape, and number of teeth could be a problem. With good dental care, a child born with such a defect can still have a healthy smile.

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One of the first things parents should do is schedule an early dental appointment with their dentist. You should talk to your child’s dentist about when to make the appointment. With a cleft your doctor may tell you to visit a dentist for a check-up well before the first birthday. An early visit is essential. It will help recognize potential issues and also help monitor your child’s oral health.

Complications Due to Cleft Lip

Clefts might cause problems outside of appearance. These can include:

  • Language and speech delays – The deformity of the lips and the opening in the palate might make it challenging to use the muscles needed to speak. As a result, the child may have language delays or a lisp.
  • Feeding problems – Cleft palates in kids make it more difficult to latch. Meaning he or she cannot suck properly to get sustenance.
  • Dental diseaseClefts in children may cause varying dental problems. Their teeth may not erupt properly or may be in the wrong positions. Sometimes their teeth are incorrectly shaped or missing entirely. Remember that orthodontic treatment is necessary for those with cleft palates.
  • Ear infections and hearing loss – In some, if a cleft palate extends to the throat, the child may experience chronic ear infections leading to hearing loss.

It is important that someone with this condition may need a team of healthcare providers. For dental health needs, an oral or maxillofacial surgeon, a pediatric dentist, and also an orthodontist.

Treatment Options

Good dental care habits can help to ensure – a future of healthy teeth for the child. Start brushing early and ensure your kid’s diet is filled with nutrient-rich foods. You can talk to your dentist about the best ways to care for your little one’s teeth. It may include brushing technique, fluoride use, and proper nutrition.

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Do not worry. It is a common birth defect that can be treated easily. Your surgeon will use a combination of surgeries and corrective appliances to address cosmetic and health issues often associated with clefts. 

Remember that as a parent, you can do a lot for your little one’s smile. You can have a dentist and other specialists monitor your kid from a young age. In addition, you practice great oral care habits and simultaneously ensure your child eats a nutritious diet.

Cleft Problems Increase the Risk of Dental Problems

It is important to note that an orofacial cleft may increase your child’s chance of experiencing dental issues. Even if you help your child exercise correct dental hygiene and visit your dentist regularly. These issues might appear for a couple of different reasons.

Note that a child having a cleft might have some dental abnormality that often accompanies that cleft. One such abnormality could be poor bone support. Some kids may have smaller-than-normal mouths. In contrast, others are seen to have deformations of the roots that hold the teeth in place.

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Researchers have also identified that children with orofacial clefts may also have abnormalities with their salivary glands. The reason is a gene mutation that influences these traits.

The salivary glands produce saliva. Your saliva acts as a protective layer against bacteria and tooth decay. Kids with these irregular salivary glands produce a different type of saliva that might not be as effective at protecting their teeth. Moreover, their saliva may have the wrong consistency. At times it lacks immune compounds responsible for warding off tooth decay.

Typical saliva may increase the acidity of the mouth as well. These abnormal factors create an oral env with excessive bacteria that rapidly promotes the growth of tooth decay.

Dental Health Improves – After Surgery of Cleft Lip

Your doctor will recommend dental surgery for such children with orofacial clefts. Unfortunately, many babies will require multiple procedures. These procedures help restore the mouth to its correct structure.

The initial cleft lip or cleft palate repair generally happens before the child is one year old. But they might need numerous procedures throughout their childhood and teen years. They will help rectify the mouth completely. When your kid is between cleft repair surgeries, try to keep your kid’s teeth as healthy as possible. Remember that children with healthier teeth often tend to have better results from their surgeries.

Proper Dental Management Is Essential

The preferred regimen for kids with orofacial clefts varies based on the severity of the cleft. It also depends on the exact issues caused by the cleft. As a parent, try to learn how you can assist with your child’s dental hygiene. It is important to note that you are not brushing the affected area too hard, as they might cause pain or bleeding.

In addition to the above steps, try to take your child to the dentist early. Also, maintain regular dental visits. In such cases, your dentist will help formulate a plan that may combat problems caused by your child’s cleft. 

For example, your kid may need to use a prescription mouthwash and toothpaste in order to combat the effects of an overly acidic mouth. Many kids may need to undergo teeth surgically removed to prevent overcrowding.

Another important thing to note – you should also make sure that your dental professionals have extensive experience in working with children who have orofacial clefts. The reason being certain areas of the mouth can be abnormally soft. Moreover, surgical scarring from cleft procedures may also impact their mouth’s mobility. 

So an experienced dentist will know how to address these issues. Your experienced dentist will know how to manipulate a mouth with such cleft issues properly. In addition, they will also understand how the cleft might impact dental procedures.